Cancer and the ‘duktig flicka’ *

October 21st, 2013


* (Swedish) The clever/good girl. One who endeavors to live up to the expectations others have placed upon her – often at the expense of her own integrity towards herself.




“Do you think you will die of your cancer?”



“I’ve always known I would die of cancer!”



“Do you have any feeling or idea as to why you got cancer?”



“I was always the ‘duktig flicka’ in my family. I felt I had to prove myself so I always did well at school and university. I never got into trouble and had a successful career, raised a healthy family and so on. Everyone always thought I was fine.”



“If you could have your life over again, how would it look?”



“I would do what I wanted to do. I would stop trying to please others and listen to my own heart.”



“If you are so clear about the origins of your disease, that it will end your life and that you really want to create another path for yourself, why do you think you are still here (on the planet)?”



“Well, I look into the eyes of my family and I see how destroyed they look by all of this. I do not want to desert them when they need me.”



“So you are saying that even though you have sworn to yourself to stop being the duktig flicka by taking responsibility for others feelings and expectations; that you long to finally be free from duty and guilt to follow your own heart; that you believe not having done so has lead to a mortal illness: you are still, even now, playing the role of the duktig flicka by taking responsibility for the grief process your family must inevitably face by themselves anyway?”






The above was a conversation I had with a client some time ago. The strangest thing about it was that the general themes discussed in it are not at all uncommon. It would be closer to say that it is quite common.



The rise of the duktig flicka


Duktig flicka 1


Now of course history is full of men and women who have sacrificed their own hopes and dreams because of what they feel was expected of them. Perhaps it was made easier because they felt there really was no other choice.



Certainly for women over the centuries their options to leave independent, free lives have been limited. New freedom poses its own stresses however. In the last fifty years or so in the West the rise of the feminist movement, womens rights, improved birth control methods, the weakening of the more patriarchal morality of the church, educational opportunities and the instigation of laws providing greater equality in the workplace has radically changed the potential options for women.



“With great power comes great responsibility” (not to mention a hefty dose of guilt)




Duktig flicka 2



When we are given opportunities very few have had before, there can be overwhelming pressure  to take them, whether they are really what we personally want or not. When we see the generations of sacrifice and limited opportunity that have gone before it is easy to feel guilty if we do not take what is offered. We may even find that those in a similar position pressure each other to do the same.



Dissonance: cultural and personal



In traditional Chinese medicine health is defined as the harmonious flow of chi. Disease is then seen as a disharmony or dissonance, leading to a stagnation. If chi stagnates for too long it can no longer animate a living organism and we die – that is, our energy-consciousness can no longer remain active in the world of visible form and structure.



Collectively we share (or are at least influenced by) the collective consciousness, attitudes and perceptions of our society. When those frequencies shift they create dissonance and we scramble to find harmony again. This is sometimes called ‘cultural dissonance’.



Women in particular have experienced the effects of this in recent generations. The conflicting stresses of making the most of their opportunities while trying to resolve this with traditional roles and identity can cause dissonance in the body and mind. The resistance and even aggression from others threatened by this cultural shift only adds to the cacophony of conflict.


There is no guarantee either that just because they are bonded by similar challenges that women will not conflict with each other…






In the tug of war of these conflicting frequencies of collective and individual consciousness it is easy to forget ourselves. Disease is one way to remind us. It can be the harsh wake up call that we need to listen to the center of that consciousness – our own heart.



Such integrity can be rare but it is never too late to learn and apply it. The client in the opening conversation saw this. She spent her remaining time putting in order the things that would enable her to free herself from the old persona she no longer needed.



She died ten days after our meeting, duktig flicka no more.



Till another Monday finds us wiser for the experience,




© Jeremy Halpin all rights reserved. All images are the author’s own unless otherwise indicated or if the original source is unknown at the time of writing. You can subscribe to this blog by clicking the button in the bottom right hand corner of the page – or share it on the social media of your choice. If you have any wishes or questions regarding subjects to be discussed on this blog use the contact information below. Jeremy is also available for seminars, lectures and personal consultation:


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